Thursday, 12 March 2015

Cicada by Moira McKinnon

Cicada Springs is the name of the large Western Australian holding run by Emily and William Lidscombe - the harsh terrain with all its heat and wide expanses making an evocative setting for this debut novel by Moira McKinnon. Set just after the First World War, Cicada gets off to a riveting start when Emily gives birth to a black baby, and William flies into a rage.

Emily finds herself on the run, accompanied by her Aboriginal maid. Wirritjil is a godsend because she knows how to live off the land and keep them both alive. Slowly Emily becomes stronger and makes plans for their escape, while William, who has fragile health and a fear of horses, sends out his brother and a stock-man to track the women down.

The novel turns into a nail-biting escape and survival story. It also highlights the difficult relationship between white settlers and the indigenous people who are treated as trouble makers and punished for the smallest of crimes. McKinnon has a background as an academic in the field of indigenous health, and her depiction of Aboriginal folklore and their way of life makes for fascinating reading.

This is a thrilling debut, which matches its exciting plot with a vividly described landscape. The characters are made real by the difficulties they face, often with tragic outcomes. When the two cultures meet and work together, however, there is hope. This is one of the more interesting Australian novels I have read in a long time.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Cicada

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